Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fine Dining at Its Finest (Eleven Madison Park)

"Duck for Two" - with Puréed Fennel, Compressed Persimmon, and Citrus-Infused Duck Jus

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa! Happy New Year! That's what happens when I neglect my blog for over a month. I could delve into all of the reasons why I haven't written on here in a while, but nobody cares, so I'll just move on to the good stuff. About a month ago, just before my brother departed for a three-week-long vacation to Hong Kong and southeast Asia, the two of us splurged on a lunch at Eleven Madison Park. And when I say the two of us splurged, I mean my brother splurged, since I'm a penniless medical student with no source of income who freeloads off of others. Thanks, big bro!


Okay, so how about the food? Because what's a restaurant without good food? Nothing, that's what. And boy, is the food here incredible. Every plate that passed its way through my table was devoured in its entirety, every crumb was consumed, and every drop of liquid was lapped up. To start, the famous gougères, which I continue to liken to intensely-flavored Cheez-Its. Served while still warm, these little bite-sized puffs would make for a great snack food to munch on while watching TV or just about any other time.

Chicken Consommé with Parsley Oil

Brioche with Shaved Black Truffles and Chicken Liver Mousse

Smoked Sturgeon Sabayon with Chive Oil

A parade of amuse bouches followed, including an intensely flavored chicken consommé with parsley oil, brioche with shaved black truffles and chicken liver, and smoked sturgeon sabayon with chive oil. All were tasty, with the liver-topped brioche and smoked sturgeon sabayon leaving the most lasting impressions. Smoked sturgeon chunks littered the bottom of the egg shell beneath the creamy, frothy liquid -- delectable, and an A+ for presentation, too.

Rolls with Goat's and Cow's Milk Butters

Then, of course, came the bread. And oh, the bread. Served toasty warm, these soft rolls had a multiple layer-like structure akin to a cinnamon roll but with the buttery, flaky taste of a well-made croissant. It came accompanied by goat's milk and cow's milk butters and a dish of sea salt. As buttery as the bread was, I had to apply the goat's milk butter because it was just that good -- this was the bread that dreams are made of.

Seared Foie Gras with Apple, Oat Streusel, and Foie Gras Jus

Smoked Foie Gras with Black Truffle and Purple Potato

So all of that food had come and we still haven't even gotten to the first course yet. Both my brother and I elected to go with the foie gras because, well, would we really choose carrots over foie gras? Major props to the kitchen for accommodating our request to be served foie gras in two ways; while we both wanted foie gras, we didn't want to get the very same dish, either, since we wanted to try as many different dishes as possible.

Black Bass with Celery, Black Truffle, and Tapioca Pearls

Lobster with Japanese Mushroom Sabayon and Puréed Chanterelle Mushrooms

For the second course, my brother's lobster dish was the standout, as the lobster was perfectly poached and was served with a delectable, creamy lobster-esque sauce. My black bass with black truffles and tapioca pearls was no slouch, either, as the huge black truffle shavings imparted a great aroma and flavor to the flaky fish.

"Duck for Two" - with Puréed Fennel, Compressed Persimmon, and Citrus-Infused Duck Jus

Duck Leg Confit with Creamy Potato Mousseline

But the star of the meal was, of course, the famous "Duck for Two" - a Muscovy duck roasted with lavender and a medley of spices and carved tableside. I'm Chinese, so naturally, I appreciate a well-cooked duck. Let me tell you: this duck was otherworldly. It was perfect: crisp, rendered skin layered up against moist, tender, and perfectly-cooked meat. This was, I daresay, the best duck I've ever eaten, and I don't make that statement lightly. Paired with a side dish of buttery whipped potatoes topped with a confit of duck leg, the duck course is a must-order dish at Eleven Madison Park. In theory, you need two people to order it, but really, the duck is so good that I would have no problem housing the whole thing by myself.

Egg Cream
A complementary egg cream followed the duck and preceded the desserts. Comprised of orange syrup, whole milk infused with cocoa nibs, orange scented extra-virgin olive oil, and seltzer water, this drink had the essence of those fantastic orange-vanilla ice cream twists that I used to get at the boardwalk in the summertime. Deliciously smooth and creamy, this drink perfectly encapsulated summertime and childhood in a small shot glass.

Hazelnut with Grapes and Raisins

Chocolate Variations

For the dessert course, I opted for the hazelnut option while my brother went with chocolate. Both plates were comprised of a medley of small bites and pieces, with raisins and grapes accompanying my hazelnut-themed dessert. Tasty and not too sweet, but the desserts felt more like a mish-mash of various ingredients rather than a single composed dessert.

White Truffles

Black Truffles

Black and white truffles were served along with the check. But these weren't your ordinary chocolate truffles, as they contained real truffle in each, with the deep, earthy smell and flavor emanating from the chocolates. Fancy-pants truffles, if you will.

This was my first time dining at a three Michelin-starred restaurant, and given the immense amount of hype and acclaim showered upon Eleven Madison Park, I was really excited to check it out. From the moment we arrived, my brother and I were treated warmly and felt welcomed, and I can't say enough about the service and hospitality of the staff. Without a doubt, this was the best service that I have ever had at a restaurant.  As a table of two young guys in our early 20s, my brother and I tend to stand out quite visibly from the other diners at most high-end restaurants. This often leads to feelings of awkwardness, and service seems strained at such places as well, as if the servers aren't quite sure what to make of people like us dining at their restaurant when we obviously are nowhere near the wealth/sophistication of most of the other diners. Or maybe the waiters think that because we're Asian or that we're young guys, that we'll be really cheap with our tip, who knows. But our main waiter here (I forgot his name; whoops) was extremely warm, accommodating, and helpful, and he was a pleasant guy to talk with. The service here was perfect: they were on top of everything, whether it was refilling our water glasses or removing empty dishes, but they weren't awkward and hovering near our table, either. And when our waiter saw how much we liked the bread, he happily offered (without our asking for it) to bring out another round of bread.

It might have been a rainy day, but lunch at Eleven Madison Park was an incredible enough experience that I couldn't have cared less if there was a hurricane outside. Obviously, as a poor med student, EMP is way outside of my price range, but I will certainly remember this meal and look forward to returning sometime in the future when I'm actually making money. But until then, I will have to continue to mooch off of my brother :)

Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10010


  1. That's awesome. I think some waiters actually appreciate the younger crowd, they probably picked up on your appreciation for the food.

    I think you'd be hard pressed to design a better set of courses, but I did think the chicken mouse looked eerily like processed McNugget meat haha.

    1. Now that you mention it, the mousse does resemble McNugget meat, but I assure you, it tasted 100x better.

      If you ever make it to NYC, this should be at the top of your list if you're looking for a place to splurge at.